Jacksonville, N.C. – Authorities found remains Saturday night who believe they are 3-year-old Mariah Woods, according to the Onslow County Sheriff's Office.
Sheriff Hans Miller said that the researchers recovered a body around 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Shelter Creek along Shaw Highway in Pender County.
A positive confirmation of identity will be made by the coroner's office.
Since the news of Mariah's death, a memorial with flowers and stuffed animals from members of the community has been started near her home, at 2404 Dawson Cabin Road in Jacksonville.
Angela Wiles, who began the memorial, said she felt compelled to begin the memorial so that the community would focus on the monument instead of the suspect arrested for his death.
"I was struggling with the sign and the wood, and a gentleman stopped and asked if I needed help, and that also meant a lot to me," Wiles said. "The whole community is really coming together, it's about her, Justice for her and bringing her back home."
As the memorial grew, many in the community were still looking for answers in Mariah's death.
"I" "It hurts, everyone is hurt here, I called my aunt yesterday and they cried, Grandma is crying," said resident Corey Humphrey
Members of the community of all ages honored and They commemorated the girl. The people gathered in prayer for hours on Saturday night.
"I was sad for her," said Kiera Ezel, 7. "I wanted to take two presents"
Another little girl appeared with her family to place a tiara on the sign, because "Mariah looked like a princess" in the photos shared with the news.
"It is impacting our children," said community member Anna Rust. "Something so tragic has impacted our own children who are still here with us, we just have to hold onto our children and watch over them."
"My daughter wanted to give Mariah one of her teddy bears just to show her that we love her," said Megan James, who has a three-year-old as Mariah.
Some of those who helped find Mariah earlier in the week came to the growing memorial on Sunday to pay their respects.
"My main concern was the hope of bringing this child home, Honestly, I just went out because I was hoping someone would do the same for me if it were my son," Joann Kasper said. "Whoever is involved in the crime, who did this to him, justice must be served for them, for her, so that she can rest peacefully."
As investigators continue to gather evidence in the case, people in the community support each other for support.
"Actually, I was quite surprised at how many people in the community met, but it's good to know that we're all here for each other when something happens," Kasper said.
Mariah's parents are divorced, and her father, Alex Woods, said that while her daughter had been living with her mother, her week had been "like hell, like a nightmare."
Discovering Mariah's body
The dive team of the Fayetteville Police Department discovered the body of the child.
At a press conference on Saturday afternoon, FBI officials called the search for the boy, who had been missing since Sunday, a "homicide investigation."
"I am very sad to inform you that we have recovered what we believe is the remains of little Mariah Woods," Miller said. "We all expected a better result."
Search teams extended the search for the missing girl from Onslow County to neighboring Pender County a half day after authorities arrested her mother's boyfriend in connection with his disappearance.
District Attorney Ernie Lee called the search an extremely challenging and emotional week.
"This investigation continues," he said. "We will wait for the results of the coroner's report and we will make some decisions at that time."
The mother's boyfriend is accused
The Onslow County Sheriff's Office and the FBI arrested Earl Kimrey, 32, on Friday night and accused him of hiding a death, obstruction of justice, Second-degree theft, theft and possession of stolen property. He was detained at the Onslow County Detention Center with a $ 1 million bonus.
Investigators did not say what led them to suspect Kimrey or what evidence they have that Mariah is dead.
The arrest warrant issued for Kimrey said he obstructed justice by "removing Mariah Woods's body from the scene of his death and hid the death and body of Mariah Woods, knowing that Mariah Woods died of unnatural causes. The defendant acted with deceit and attempted fraud. "
Kimrey "secretly removed the corpse of the dead child," the order said.
State records show that Kimrey had previously been charged with a series of lower level crimes dating back to 2005. Kimrey's previous charges include theft, badault and disorderly and drunken behavior. according to the state's online records.
Kimrey graduated from Orange High School in Hillsborough.
Agencies involved in the case included the Onslow County Sheriff's Office, the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office, the Pender County Sheriff's Office, the Fayetteville Police Department's Diving Team, Service of Naval Criminal Investigation, the State Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
An FBI spokesman said Sunday that the case is now a state homicide investigation and that the agency will no longer be involved.